Caernarfon Castle and Beaumaris Jail: 100 Things to do in Wales (in the rain!)

The weather this week has not been all sunshine and glitz. This is Wales after all. The rain came down heavy over night and continued during breakfast. “What could we do?” we asked ourselves. And being polite people we answered “Let’s continue with the 100 list”. OK we’ve been to Caernarfon Castle before with Number 1 Daughter and various friends in tow in the past. But the list demands a photograph on the battlements, and we don’t have one of them. So fortified with a cup of coffee, and the smugness that only comes with finding a free car parking space we raided the castle.

Outside the Castle in the town square girding our loins ready for the assault.
Outside the Castle in the town square girding our loins ready for the assault.

Caernarfon is architecturally one of the most impressive of all of the castles in Wales. It’s defensive capabilities were not as overt or as powerful as those of Edward I’s other castles such as Harlech and Beaumaris (which indicate the pinnacle of castle building and defenses in Britain), but Caernarvon was instead intended as a seat of power – and as a symbol of English dominance over the subdued Welsh.

We've stormed the main gate, and scaled the battlements. Both of us trying not to look as if we'd prefer to be back I the cafe drinking coffee.
We’ve stormed the main gate, and scaled the battlements. Both of us trying not to look as if we’d prefer to be back I the cafe drinking coffee.

I’ll not spend time describing the castle to you, there are many others who can do it better. And the photos on such a grey and wet day really don’t do this fantastic castle justice. A great little website has some fascinating facts about the castle: http://www.exploring-castles.com/caernarfon_castle.html

A couple of years ago there were a series of books called “Where’s Wally?”, and kids (and dads) were invited to find Wally with his red and white hat hiding in crowds. Well now’s your chance to play “Where’s Aunty?” In the next few photos.

Looking across the inner courtyard emphasises the size of the castle.
Looking across the inner courtyard emphasises the size of the castle.
Still raining and looking increasingly grey, but the walls are still impressive.
Still raining and looking increasingly grey, but the walls are still impressive.

Having got very wet is was onto our next spot on the 100 List. But it was meant that I could knock off another island as we crossed over the Menai Straits onto Anglesy. OK it might seem a little easy crossing over a bridge, I’ll still tick it off. Beaumaris Gaol in Steeple Lane was built in 1829 by Joseph Hansom, the man who also designed the Hansom Cab. It is famous for its brutal punishment methods and a number of hangings took place there. Crime and Punishment in Victorian prisons included stretching racks, chains and whippings. Look up to the door in the North East wall and above it the gallows looms threateningly. This is where the unfortunate condemned would face their final drop from the hanging platform. OK sounds a little macabre – but visit the jail, it’s worth a visit.

Waiting for visiting time to start.
Waiting for visiting time to start.
It may still be raining but at least we have lunch and won't starve.
It may still be raining but at least we have lunch and won’t starve.

We stopped for lunch overlooking the Menai Straits between Anglesy and the mainland. These are known as the swellies because of the turbulent waters caused by the currents as the tides ebbs and flows? All along the stretch of water around the village of Menai Bridge there are houses built on small rocks out in the water, but none so far out of Ynys Gored Goch, with translates as Red Weir Island. The weir can still be seen surrounding the house, where fish would be trapped as the tide receded. The earliest known document relating to the island dates from 1590 when it is listed as belonging to the Diocese of Bangor which leased it for £3 and a barrel of herrings a year as the island was used as a fishing trap. During high tides fish would swim into the traps set near the island. The catch would then be collected at the subsequent low tide. After 1888 when the house was sold into private hands.

I wonder if they can get flood insurance.
I wonder if they can get flood insurance.

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